Thursday, November 29, 2012

Remembering Tosia

During the close of a long Thanksgiving weekend filled with warmth, delicious food, family from out of town, and so much else to be grateful for, our little girl left this world, comfortably resting on my lap, slipping quietly away from a lifetime that inspired people from four continents to live, laugh, and love more fully than we ever could have without knowing her.

I was already vegetarian for many years when we adopted Tosia from a no-kill shelter in Queens, but I came to veganism in large part thanks to her, as she quietly and unknowingly helped me to understand the right all human and non-human beings have to live—free from usage for human endeavor, and free from any unnecessary pain, suffering, and fear.

She was first brought to that shelter, we believe, because someone found her being used as part of an abusive breeding operation. Her belly skin dragged on the floor for weeks. Initially, I was the only man she trusted, though that gradually changed with time.

During her early years with us, Tosia inspired a young boy who helped us to take care of her to become a young man who is now working towards becoming a veterinarian. Though tiny, she spent hours running, right in step, to, from, and around the Cunningham Park running loop in Queens.

For most of Tosia's extraordinary life, she traveled extensively with us through the Northeast and Middle Atlantic states, winning human and canine hearts everywhere she went. She loved returning to all of her "vacation homes," and always settled in quickly, taking charge of favorite spots and ensuring everyone she loved was within reach for hours of licking, playing, and snuggling.

Emotionally, she kept people who were struggling to understand their path in life connected—to the outside world, and to each other—and always, somehow, made the worst pain easier to bear. She never failed to bring a smile to a troubled heart, and never failed to erase worries with her unusual playful habit of rocking forward onto the back of her neck while grabbing her face. Though she never went out of her way to acknowledge other animals, for the last year and half, she was always kind towards (and even occasionally curious about!) our newly-rescued younger dog, Smooch.

In more recent years, as Tosia slowly lost her vision and developed a serious heart condition, she slowed down, but her capacities to play, to love, and to be loved were as great as any other living being I've ever been fortunate to know. Two local organizations—an exceptional emergency animal clinic, and an amazingly kind pet funeral home—made the difficult, unexpected end of our journey with her slightly easier to bear, as I was allowed to stay with her throughout this difficult time.

We've received so many helpful messages these last few days reminding us of Tosia's huge heart, filled with gratitude for the light she brought into your lives. Thank you. Your notes remembering her tiny beauty, as well as your thoughts and memories of your own beloved pets and how their passing still, all these years later, brings pain and sadness, is something we completely understand and very much appreciate.

Thanks to James Howard Kunstler for inspiring this remembrance with his own story of Chloe.